back to article Help save the endangered QUANTUM OWL, pleads Reg man

I’m sitting in Faraday’s lecture theatre where electricity was first demonstrated, taking part in yet another Royal Institution near-death experience. You need to drop your simplistic idea that the RI is about the Christmas Lectures we all know and love: it runs by far the largest UK science outreach programme, hitting around …


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  1. hplasm


    The RI server is down- hopefully the Slashdot effect of lots of people with money!

    1. david 12

      Re: argh!

      sadly, just a typo or server configuration change. &id=2065 takes you to the full membership page:

      1. david 12

        Re: argh!

        or maybe the content id's are dynamically generated?

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    One minor problem...

    the linked 'easy to join' website is down...

    HTTP Status 500 -

    type Exception report


    descriptionThe server encountered an internal error () that prevented it from fulfilling this request.


    java.lang.NumberFormatException: For input string: "8962a"

    note The full stack traces of the exception and its root causes are available in the GlassFish Server Open Source Edition 3.1 logs.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to be a junior associate

    and it was great fun. Included day out to the RFH archive of diseased body parts, trip down coal mine(sadly now closed), lasers demonstrations of things that go pop, bang and burn in exciting ways for a young chap.

    I was even on TV at the christmas lectures and the BBC put me on the trailer while wiping my nose very thourougly with the palm of my hand (they were like that).

    I can recommend it to anyone who has any kind of scientific enquiry. Lectures were much more fun than school as they things were demonstrated as well as discussed.

    Not clear on the El Reg angle but would like to big up the place all the same.

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    I will join

    Even if, living in the Netherlands, I might not reap the full benefits. This is an important institution which is very worthy of my support

  5. Norman Hartnell
    Thumb Up

    Through the Looking-Glass

    I'm agreeing with Dominic Connor.

  6. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

    The RI server is back.

  7. D 13

    " It was John Kozak... who pointed out that if it stopped having a centre, people would stop caring and the RI would just end up being a brand on the Royal Society’s website

    Couldn't they just sell the building in Mayfair and buy Newcastle as a new centre?

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The problem, dear reader, is you.

    Actually; I think the problem is the RI. It's not providing evidence of its relevance nor the compelling need for retaining its expensive home. People have to be convinced it's a worthy thing they are buying into and the RI are failing to convince.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem, dear reader, is you.

      Sadly I have to agree with this having been approached by them in various roles. All too often the reach out is for funds for the building and not for science and education. Promotion of what they do well is limited and centralised and with limited follow up on issues of true public interest.

      Take a look at the pitch on corporate membership - its primarily about the ability to hire the venue. I doubt many would feel RI branding at the moment is a pull. Pretty certain anyone with £10k could find a venue in London ...

      Its a real shame - I love what they do but they do need more regionalisation and better promotion and public engagement to justify such a centre. If they did that it might look like a hub and not a meeting room.

      1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

        Re: The problem, dear reader, is you.

        That's a fair point, the building is a two edged sword (#Bad metaphor at line 0)

        The Trustees are a bit resentful at having to run what their leadership referred to as a "catering operation", ie renting the rooms out. They should be used for being a science hub as you say, but the finances don't allow for that.

        Yes ,pitches for cash have been far from well focused and the TV scientists, Brian Cox, Henry Winston et al are beavering away at finding specific, well defined deliverables that sponsors can contribute towards.

        That makes sense and the L'Oreal and Microsoft partnerships seem to have worked well, but the Ri needs several of those.

        Personally, I like the idea of upgrading the Theatrical skills of science teachers, this has a high gearing since its pretty cheap to help someone who understands the topic explain it better and that will upgrade their productivity big time.

  9. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Something for the weekend?

    Aside from the lack of family membership, it also seems that most of the events are on weeknights. Fine if you're a Londoner, but for those of us a bit further out (Home Counties etc) it gets a bit more complex. Many a time we've had good days out in London on a Saturday or Sunday (Science Museum, London Aquarium/Eye, Nat Hist Museum, Museum of London etc etc) with the kids, but a week (schoolnight) lecture would be a no-go.

    So in addition to family membership, how about some events/lectures on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon that could involve (and be aimed at) those younger proto-scientists too?

    1. Alfred


      Well, there are 2.5 weeknights for every weekend-night. I would expect more on the weeknights.

    2. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

      Re: Something for the weekend?

      Actually there are Family Fun Days on Saturdays, the anti matter anecdote was from the last but one, they are great fun and pathetically cheap.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Something for the weekend?

        @Dominic - sounds good, although as noted there are none on the website (at least none that haven't already happened) - how often do they occur?

        Indeed a quick web search found me the page advertising the March one we just missed, and that page seems to have recommended content pointing to two of them in 2009? Hardly inspires confidence in the institution.

        Looking through the listed upcoming events, there's only one more listed as family friendly (An evening with Simon Mayo and Itch on Sat 18th May 6-7:30pm). And aside from one item there's nothing at all listed beyond the end of June - not even the Christmas lectures. Surely they must be planned more than a couple of months in advance?

    3. Tim Wolfe-Barry

      Re: Something for the weekend?


      I live an hour or so from London and have 3 boys who'd LOVE to do some of the things offered, but there seem to be no more family days this year, since one on 2nd March.

      Happy to join if I find stuff to do that will make it worth me spending the £70 to get the mob to London on the train.

  10. Julian Bond
    Thumb Up

    Faraday's Shed

    Slightly off topic, but I can recommend to fans of Faraday's sheds. Just by Lea mouth on the other side of the city.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    >>Joining is pathetically easy

    No it's not.

    Apart from the link in the article being broken, there's absolutely no mention of memberhsips or how to join on the main website.

    I was going to join right now. Today. But I'm not now...

  12. Norman Hartnell

    If you go to there is an item in the menu on the left hand side called "Membership".

  13. Glen Forde


    Associate membership purchased. I went on the Mathematics masterclass as a youngster and loved it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Membership link

  15. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Re: Bootnote

    I wouldn't mind seeing more of Aleks Krotoski. If you see what I mean...

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Good ol' classic values.

      Random sexist remark about female scientist (ok, trick-cyclist rather)? Check.

      It ought to be obligatory to now pay for full fellowship; as a conservative you have to put your money where you mouth is and conserve something.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Good ol' classic values.

        It wasn't random, it was carefully considered.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Royal Institution rescued by £4M donation

    The Royal Institution has received an anonymous £4.4m donation to help ease its financial troubles.

    It means that one of the oldest scientific organisations in the world can hang on to its home in Mayfair, London, for a while yet (continues)

    1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

      Re: Royal Institution rescued by £4M donation

      I was there, the Beeb wasn't, also I can do numbers...

      The Ri was about to hit a financial wall very hard and the 4MM averted that disaster, but the outgoing are structurally more than the income by about a million or so per year. Even that figure is only achieved my using rooms for corporate events rather than science education and the lack of cash means so many things it could and should be doing aren't being done.

      The point of the Ri is to explain science to as wide an audience as possible, it doesn't exist merely to exist and the cash flow is so fragile that one day it will be hit by some rogue wave and going titsup.

  17. Dan Paul

    A perfect opportunity for Stephen Fry and the BEEB (as long as you fund the Teleprompter)

    Maybe you can all help keep Fry otherwise occupied by letting him read the scripts for the fundraising advertisments. That way, he'll be "contributing" his greatest gift... Gab.

    Then perhaps they can put up a massive Van der Graf generator like at the Boston Museum of Science and use Fry as the target, get it all on video and use it as the main attraction.

    It might even improve his hairstyle (or lack thereof).

  18. Martin Budden Bronze badge

    "balls and bad smells"

    If your balls smell bad, wash them.

  19. JL1155

    one more member

    ...although, living in the states, I won't be in competition with you for tickets to the Christmas lecture!

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